I’ve been a Toyota fangirl for as long as I can remember. My eco- and budget-aware parents always owned Toyotas; in fact, I learned to drive stick in a ’78 Corolla (that’s it in the picture). That was the start of my love affair with this brand: I graduated from the Corolla to a swank ’85 Cressida, snagged the Matrix the year it came out, succumbed to the suburban siren call of the SUV and picked up a 4Runner along the way, had two torrid affairs with Lexus (that counts) and finally saw the eco light of day with the Prius in which I currently trundle to work daily with fingers crossed that my floor mats won’t bite off my feet or otherwise cause me bodily harm.
I’ve only owned ten cars over the course of my adult life. SEVEN were made by Toyota. Please keep this in mind.
One recent Saturday the Russian tells me we’ve received a “VIP invitation” from our local Toyota dealer to thank us for our support during Toyota’s current difficulties (by “difficulties” they meant this) and offer a SPECIAL ONLY FOR US zero-percent down/zero-percent financing deal on the 2010 Prius.
The Russian has been known to fall prey to “too good to be true” offers before (though I probably would too if I were flooded with junk mail daily in a language not my own) – so to be on the safe side I scrutinize this letter within an inch of its life. I’m looking for the fine print and the disclaimers and I can’t find any so off we go to Toyota! We’re gonna buy a new Prius! And we’re gonna save LOTS OF MONEY!
Forget that we have to wait 30 minutes for our “VIP appointment” because our salesman (who we’ve known since my son was in diapers and from whom we’ve bought three cars) decided to meet with some walk-ins first. We finally sit down and with that VIP SPECIAL ONLY FOR US offer in my hand, I tell him we’re keen to get our mitts on that sparkly new 2010 Prius.
Will you be surprised to learn there were strings attached to this deal? Will you be shocked to hear the VIP SPECIAL ONLY FOR US offer was only good if the dealer deemed our current car worthy of trade-in? Will you be amazed to know the salesman from whom we’ve bought three cars delivered this news casually and without apology? And despite the “I want to buy a new Prius let’s talk” tattoo on my forehead, that he made no effort to engage us in any kind of negotiation?
The Russian was mute through all this, probably hoping that if he got very quiet it would offset whatever rage I was about to vomit all over this salesguy. I knew we were about to truck out of there in the same car we’d come in with no VIP SPECIAL OFFER FOR US and no sparkly new Prius, so why not let ‘er rip?
What I wanted to say:
Really, Toyota Salesguy? REALLY? Do you think this is a good time to be hoodwinking loyal customers with bogus offers? Do you think at a time when NO ONE wants to buy your death trap Prius that maybe you’d want to treat those who do with a little more courtesy and consideration? Do you think maybe, just maybe, you should get your manager down here to your cubicle and make him apologize for inconveniencing us with his slimy sales tactics and taking up the better part of our Saturday morning with this goose chase? I am a trained public relations professional, Toyota salesguy, and I know a communications crisis when I see it and believe you me, you guys are in the MOTHER of all crisis situations and companies in crisis should not PISS OFF THEIR LOYAL CUSTOMERS.
What I actually said:
Gosh, Toyota Salesguy, this is really disappointing. I guess there’s nothing to talk about so we’ll be going now.
Because I’m tough like that.
Look, I realize the boneheaded sales ploy of a manager desperate to drive showroom traffic is not the fault of the corporate overlords – after all, they’re too busy cranking out all those TV spots that “put a face” on the hardworking technicians of Toyota who believe in these cars and “drive them too!” – what do they know about what happens on the front lines? But the combination of seemingly endless recalls with false advertising/crappy service at the local level – well, there are plenty of auto makers who’d be thrilled to take my money (and my loyalty) right about now. (Oh, and whose cars don’t accelerate uncontrollably and kill families in fiery crashes.)
We had a good run, Toyota. 26 years and seven cars, to be specific. But no more. A girl can only take so much heartbreak.
The seventies: the popcorn was hot, the channels were few, and the network promos were things of wonder.
I’ve been feeling nostalgic lately. I’ll be going about my day, dealing with some everyday object when WHOOSH, I get a sudden flash of recall of its ghostly late 20th century antecedent. With it comes a fierce rush of memories of people and places and experiences long gone. It happened today. I’m eating leftover microwave popcorn (a little squishy but it was sitting there, why not) and flashed back to the basement of our house on Maple Avenue in Hershey, PA, let’s say 1974. Finished basement — a rumpus room, if you will — concrete floor painted a muddy brown by my mom in an effort to suggest, er, hardwood flooring? Classic ’70s wood panelling made of cardboard and spit, dropped ceiling with those nasty foam tiles, a shag throw rug in some kind of orange-y tones to “make things cozy”…and the family gathered around the tube in eager anticipation of the CBS Saturday night line-up.
If you are of a certain age, you will know exactly what I’m talking about. Long before NBC invented “must see TV” on Thursday nights, there were CBS Saturdays. It started at 8 PM with “All in the Family” and continued through the 10 o’clock hour with some of the greatest TV shows ever made: “Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Bob Newhart Show” and “The Carol Burnett Show.” A few years earlier, but this promo brings it back:
Back to the microwave popcorn? Well, if you’re a child of the ’70s, you know that before there were microwaves and air poppers, there was the electric popcorn popper. And nothing — NOTHING — makes better popcorn. You’d pour oil and popcorn kernels (or “gourmet popping corn” if you were swank and could afford Orville Redenbacher) in a well, cover it with a bulbous plastic dome, slap some butter (“We call it maize…”) in the perforated well on top of the dome, plug it in, and watch the popcorn pop.
Snack prep as spectacle — the sound of the sizzling oil, the smell of the corn cooking, the sight of that big plastic dome filling with fluffy popcorn — and the anticipation of that butter as it melted and dripped down through the perforations to the popcorn below…once it was done, you just unplugged it, flipped the whole contraption over, and your dome/lid now served as a bowl — full of steaming hot, buttery popcorn. Nirvana. My mom would bring the whole set up — hot oil and all — down into the TV room because remember — no DVR pause buttons. We didn’t want to miss a second of all that great TV, so easier to just whip up the popcorn right on the spot.
Ours was a West Bend popper, and guess what — they still exist. They’re sleeker and more streamlined now, but the one I remember looked just like this, down to the golden see-through plastic dome and the bright yellow plastic lid that pushed down the butter on top.
TV watching is a splintered, silo’d, highly individual experience chez Smirnov. We are a household with nine screens, of every size and persuasion. Each one of us has an electronic appendage — the Russian and his iPhone, the kid and his DS, me and my blackberry. Very often we’re multi-taking as we keep one eye on whatever the channel surfing dredges up on the HDTV in the front of the room. Don’t get me wrong, we have our communal TV-watching moments, and the older our son gets, the more we can share our TV preferences with him to make for a true family viewing outing.
It’s not the same, of course. Down to the way the popcorn tastes. Who sits around watching popcorn pop, for god’s sake? Well, 30-some years ago we did, and I cherish those memories. There’s such a thing as Slow Food and Slow Parenting…maybe it’s time to trade in the microwave popcorn for a West Bend and try out some Slow Family TV Time.
(Logo montage via James White. Popcorn popper via ebay.com)
The Ridley Scott Superbowl spot for Macintosh is still electrifying, after all these years. Had never seen Steve Jobs’ keynote address unveiling the spot in Fall, 1983. Also electrifying. Was happy to have found this at Guy Kawasaki’s blog.
File this under “How to Present with Utter Command and Conviction.”
I posted earlier about the terrific book ”Evocative Objects” and the resonance that things have in our lives beyond their function. I’ve also posted recently about missing my mom, who passed away three years ago. She creeps up on me at the weirdest times. Was having an iced tea the other day and it being steamy and hot, thought I’d bust out the spoon straw to enhance my bev’s chilly goodness. Not those plastic things you get with your Slushee, by the way, I’m talking about metal spoon/straw combos that in days of yore were made of sterling and typically used for mint juleps or iced tea. (Here’s where Mom enters the picture…)
These are elegant objects from another era, and while you can find stainless steel versions today at Crate and Barrel and the like, they’re pale imitations of the real deal. It was a Crate and Barrel version I plunked into my drink the other day, and it occurred to me that I had no idea where the sterling spoon straws were that belonged to my mother. Hers were early-60s vintage — wedding gifts, I’m pretty sure. They are a thing of beauty, the slender straw stems gracefully tapering to a spoon shaped like a mint leaf. Could there be any finer way to sip your summer drink than through the cool length of a sterling silver straw?
Not Mom’s, but very close (via ebay)
I bought the Crate and Barrel imposters when Mom was alive, because the sterling versions were still very much in use at her house. After she passed away, my sister and I and our uncles split up Mom’s things and most of the finer table- and flatware came to me. Consensus was that of the four of us, I was the one most likely to use it.
But you know, I’m not sure I’ve got those spoon straws! They may have ended up with my sister; she loved them as much as I did. If they’re not with her, that means they’re still packed away in my basement with the rest of Mom’s china and silver.
God, there are treasures down there. All that finery from another era, beloved posessions (mostly wedding gifts) of my beautiful 19-year old mother setting out for Europe with her Army captain husband for a life that must have seemed impossibly glamorous…dinner parties with other officers and their wives, midnight suppers, afternoon teas and bridge parties, gatherings where a sterling silver spoon straw would be an essential, not a flourish.
Picture taken by my father of Mom playing solitaire on a ferry crossing,
somewhere in France circa 1962.
Vietnam ended her dreams when my father was killed in action in 1968. Thirty-seven years later, we buried Mom with him at the West Point cemetery.
Is there such a thing as a “gateway” evocative object? The object that signifies the real signifier, the original object bearing memories and untapped emotion that erupt at the most unexpected times…like pouring a glass of iced tea? The Crate and Barrel straw evokes the sterling version which evokes Mom — and not just the woman, but all her aspirations and dreams for domestic bliss and the graceful rituals of bygone eras.
I’m thinking I’ve got some unpacking to face downstairs. Boxes of cherished objects and memories await.